Chile's forward Mauricio Pinilla (L) challenges Brazil's midfielder Luiz Gustavo. Photo: Getty
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Much like the country, Brazil’s performance against Chile was both heaven and hell

Simon Schama bissects a tale of two halves: Brazil’s nail-biting victory over Chile.

Those of us who love Brazil know it’s heaven and hell and not much in between. Silky music, feijoada (a kind of heaven if cooked right) but also egrets wading in open sewage by the side of the road leading from Sao Paulo to the city; the kids who offer to “look after your car” in Rio, the alternative being they will really look after it.

So it was in the two halves of the Chile match. Musical moves: Neymar leaving defenders lead-booted; Fernandinho, skipping around; David Luiz getting his thigh round that ball at the goalmouth (even if it gets to be an OG); their midfield on some springy wire that pinged them back and forth on high voltage. Chile – tough, sinewy, and capable of seizing the moment as that equaliser proved. But as with many Brazilian sides their besetting sin is a kind of wounded vanity when the play goes against them. Scolari was evidently right to want to describe Chile as a “pain”. They know how to inflict it at the right moment. But that first half was so good, so fluid, so high voltage, so intense, that the players weren't the only ones drained at the end of it. I was reaching for the Gruner Veltliner for medical help.

And then in part two, it was as if a completely alien gang were wearing the yellow shirts; or they’d fallen under the influence of some Amazonian potion. Neymar disappeared. There were so many aimless long balls that I felt I was looking at Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England. The antelopes were being outrun, out-everythinged by the snappy terriers. The Brazilian midfield melted away. It was all very very strange. The one exception was Hulk for whom magnificent is inadequate – playing as though he knew everyone else had taken the day off to go to the beach and he’d have to do it all himself. Which he very nearly did. This way and that, brilliant swerves and feints. The terrier of terriers was Alexis Sancheza rush of hard, savvy energy; so dangerous, so suddenly. As regular time ebbed, it was impossible not to have mixed feelings. Chile settled for playing it out, but the Pinilla shot was so powerful it deserved to find the net. Extra time – just a lot of very tired men spending a lot of energy in courting fouls (and succeeding).

You felt for the goalkeepers: both had stirring games; both at penalty time were on the firing line; both produced nails bitten to the quick heroics of impulse (even if a lot of those penalties were aimed straight at them). In the end, poor Jara only just missed that goalpost-struck shot going sidelong into the net. There were Inca faces set in tragic stone. The Forro is heaving up north. But only those of us who were taught samba for our bar mitzvah can actually believe Brazil has what it takes to win this World Cup. On the other hand, maybe Neymar can play like Tom Jobim sang and do it for the full ninety minutes.

This article first appeared on newrepublic.com

Photo: Getty
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Labour will soon be forced to make clear its stance on Brexit

The Great Repeal Bill will force the party to make a choice on who has the final say on a deal withg Europe.

A Party Manifesto has many functions. But rarely is it called upon to paper over the cracks between a party and its supporters. But Labour’s was – between its Eurosceptic leadership and its pro-EU support base. Bad news for those who prefer their political parties to face at any given moment in only one direction. But a forthcoming parliamentary vote will force the party to make its position clear.

The piece of legislation that makes us members of the EU is the European Communities Act 1972. “Very soon” – says the House of Commons Library – we will see a Repeal Bill that will, according to the Queen’s Speech, “repeal the European Communities Act.” It will be repealed, says the White Paper for the Repeal Bill, “on the day we leave the EU.”

It will contain a clause stating that the bit of the bill that repeals the European Communities Act will come into force on a date of the Prime Minister's choosing. But MPs will have to choose whether to vote for that clause. And this is where Labour’s dilemma comes into play.

In her Lancaster House speech Theresa May said:

“I can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force.”

Later that day David Davis clarified May’s position, saying, of a vote against the final deal:

“The referendum last year set in motion a circumstance where the UK is going to leave the European Union, and it won’t change that.” 

So. The choice the Tories will give to Parliament is between accepting whatever deal is negotiated or leaving without a deal. Not a meaningful choice at all given that (as even Hammond now accepts): “No deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain.”

But what about Labour’s position? Labour’s Manifesto says:

“Labour recognises that leaving the EU with ‘no deal’ is the worst possible deal for Britain and that it would do damage to our economy and trade. We will reject ‘no deal’ as a viable option.”

So, it has taken that option off the table. But it also says:

“A Labour approach to Brexit also means legislating to guarantee that Parliament has a truly meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal (my emphasis).”

Most Brexit commentators would read that phrase – a meaningful vote – as drawing an implicit contrast with the meaningless vote offered by Theresa May at Lancaster House. They read it, in other words, as a vote between accepting the final deal or remaining in the EU.

But even were they wrong, the consequence of Labour taking “no deal” off the table is that there are only two options: leaving on the terms of the deal or remaining. Labour’s Manifesto explicitly guarantees that choice to Parliament. And guarantees it at a time when the final deal is known.

But here’s the thing. If Parliament chooses to allow Theresa May to repeal the European Communities Act when she wants, Parliament is depriving itself of a choice when the result of the deal is known. It is depriving itself of the vote Labour’s Manifesto promises. And not only that - by handing over to the Prime Minister the decision whether to repeal the European Communities Act, Parliament is voluntarily depriving itself of the power to supervise the Brexit negotiations. Theresa May will be able to repeat the Act whatever the outcome of those negotiations. She won’t be accountable to Parliament for the result of her negotiations – and so Parliament will have deprived itself of the ability to control them. A weakened Prime Minister, without a mandate, will have taken back control. But our elected Parliament will not.

If Labour wants to make good on its manifesto promise, if Labour wants to control the shape of Brexit, it must vote against that provision of the Repeal Bill.

That doesn’t put Labour in the position of ignoring the referendum vote. There will be ample time, from October next year when the final deal is known, for Labour to look at the Final Deal and have a meaningful vote on it.

But if Labour supports the Repeal Bill it will be breaching a clear manifesto promise.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues. 

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